Academic journal article Social Education

Teaching about Religion. (Lookout Point)

Academic journal article Social Education

Teaching about Religion. (Lookout Point)

Article excerpt

Religion is one of the great binding forces in any society. Even in a predominantly secular society such as ours, vital common values have been shaped--and continue to be shaped--by religions.

This is not to say that the only roles of religion in human history have been benevolent. Religion has been co-opted into the support systems for despotic regimes or unjust social structures, some of which have lasted for centuries. For example, in this country, slave owners sought justification for the institution of slavery by quoting the Bible. Religion has also been used as the banner for ethnic hostilities and even genocide--in spite of the fact that central to all of the world's great religions is a recognition of human kinship and a rejection of hatred and violence. We should not minimize the mischief done and the tragedies caused by the distortions and exploitation of religious teachings and belief. Fundamentalist zealots thrive on the hatreds they can engender towards other groups, both outside and inside their own religion, by their narrow and distorted view of their own faith.

And yet, religion has frequently been a liberating force in human society, as can be seen in the history of our own nation. In the first half of the nineteenth century, religious conviction and philosophy gave rise to the Abolition movement that led to the end of slavery. Personal spirituality and organized religion played a similar role in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s and 70s. At countless points in history, religious institutions and religious persons have been the catalysts of political reform, economic and social justice, the broadening of knowledge, human compassion, and cultural creativity. …

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